September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

STEM Family Night – Fun Learning Night for All!

Posted: Friday, December 11th, 2015

by Joanne Michael

Seven years ago, a colleague and I were working on getting accepted to NASA Advanced Space Camp for Educators. We had been to basic camp, loved the experience, and knew for us to be accepted for Advanced Camp that we had to do something big. We decided to do a Space Night at our elementary school, have a pre-registration sign-up, invite scientists and educators from around Los Angeles come to do a 45-minute workshop, and it would be just the thing to get us accepted. 7 years later, Science Night is now the biggest event of the school year, with over 2/3 of the student body and their families attending on a Friday night in the spring (and yes, we were both accepted into Advanced Camp!).

There are many different ways of hosting or leading an evening STEM night. Before teaching elementary, I taught 8th grade Physical Science at a school that every subject had a night activity during the year. We had a Math Night, Social Studies Night, Science Night, and English/Language Arts Night- all of which were well-attended, and planned to be about 2 months apart from each other, to not interfere with the other events. Each classroom teacher was in charge of some kind of hands-on activity in some aspect of their subject matter. For example- for Science Night, one room was dissecting squid (with a side table cooking up the squid to much on), another room made bracelets with each color of bead representing a genetic trait, one room had a “murder mystery”, where the students had to look at the fingers swirls of the suspects (classroom teachers), and try to figure out who committed the crime. Each activity did not cost too much, was able to be completed in about 10 minutes, and had some component to take home- either the actual activity, or a handout that explained the science behind what they did. The hope would be that when they saw the paper, bracelet, etc, that it would help them remember what they had done that evening, and inspire more questions or thought.

At my current school, we had not done anything of that matter before. Doing a Science Night at an elementary school was easier in some aspects (thinking of something hands-on that covers a concept is easier when thinking about a 6-year-old as opposed to an 8th grade student), but also remembering that an elementary school is much more likely to have very young siblings that shouldn’t have items easily placed in their mouth makes it more challenging. Over the years, Science Night changed from a pre-registration, maximum of 30 people per workshop, and only 2 workshops in an evening, to an Open-House format, with 15 workshops, and a 3-hour window of time. In addition to the workshops, there is normally 2 or 3 shows – animal shows, a “bug guy,” or some presenters from a workshop doing a bigger production.

So how do you go about starting a STEM night? Begin with what surrounds your community. If you teach in a Title I school, there are a bunch of companies and museums that will come to your school in the evenings to lead programs, either for free or at a very reduced cost. Many large companies, particularly in the aerospace industry, have programs for schools that vary between guest speakers to building paper airplanes, to shooting off rockets – all you have to do is ask!

Depending on your school demographics, you may have some parents or community members that are in STEM fields that would be willing to come out to show what they do. Pictures, videos, maybe a small hands-on activity is all that so many kids need to get inspired for a new career option that they had never considered before.

But what about if you live in an area that doesn’t have a company around willing to host, and the families or community members are not interested in presenting? If you have a few teachers willing to jump in, you can still make an incredible night! NASA has a number of easy-to-lead, hands-on activities such as “toys in space,” in which the kids make or play with a variety of toys, and then can watch videos of the toys being played with on the International Space Station. I have had parents lead a “fun fly” station, where they can play with battery-operated “wands” to create a static field in order to keep small mylar shapes upright. Have a teacher who is a fan of coding? Bring out some iPads, and have the students do some simple coding with Scratch Jr. or a similar program. Options are endless!

Over the years, our school’s Cub Scouts have gotten involved, selling pizza for the night. The boys are excited, because it helps them earn badges, the families get fed, and the scouts have then donated the proceeds back to the science program- everyone wins!

While it can take a lot of prep to get started, the magic that a STEM night produces for the students, the school, and the community is incredible. Give it a shot! If you need ideas on how to get an evening started, please feel free to contact me!

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified, and is CSTA’s Intermediate (grade 3-5) Director.

Written by Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael

Joanne Michael is a K-5 Science Specialist for Manhattan Beach Unified and is a CSTA member.

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State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Learn More…

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California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

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Science Education Background

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Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

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This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.